A number of Hollywood unions and guilds, Producers Guild of America, Women in Film and the women' committees of the Screen Actors Guild, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and Writers Guild of America West, have organized a night of dramatic readings of blogs and poems written by Afghan Women living in Afghanistan, mentored by American novelists, screenwriters and journalists. The mentoring program, Afghan Women's Writing Project, was started by novelist and journalist Masha Hamilton, whose efforts have given Afghan women something to hold on to - their voice.
When Masha visited Afghanistan in 2008 she saw an opportunity to help women whose need for expression was more important than their own safety. A year later AWWP (Afghan Women's Writing Project) was up and running.
In supporting the right of Afghan women to think, speak and write, nationality and religion are non-issues to them and to us. We are just human beings reaching out to one another.
It is hard for us Americans to understand that there are women in other parts of the world who are victimized daily simply because they are women. It is hard for us to grasp that a young woman not wanting to be married off has no recourse, or that education can be denied to women and that women can be treated as no more than possessions to be sold and traded by others.
We are astonished when we read: "When I open my eyes to this world, everyone turns sad. When they learn of my gender, people say; oh my God. When I am small and need my father's love and kindness, he turns his back on me, giving all his love to his son instead." And our hearts ache when another woman writes: "...Suddenly the blast took all my happiness and its grimy smoke brought darkness into my life. When I opened my eyes everything seemed in disarray. I checked my American watch. I found my hand full of blood." And our hearts beat with theirs when we read: "I am fifteen and the boy I cannot forget waits on the street to see me with my burqa...he knows my smell, love is blind for him."
So on March 8th, Jennifer Beals, Summer Bishil, Nadia Bjorlin, Conchata Ferrell, Jodi Long, Nichelle Nichols, Teal Sherer, Bahar Soomekh and Marcia Wallace will read the words of these brave women who risk their lives every time they put a pencil to a paper and we will listen to their voices with compassion, admiration and exhilaration.
In helping produce this event it is my sincere hope that we can continue to find ways to support the rights of women to thrive - at home and abroad - independently of political and socio-economic interests; just as human beings reaching out to one another.
The program, "Out of Silence" will be held at the Los Angeles Museum of Tolerance on March 8, 2010 - International Women's Day, and is directed by Frederick Ponzlov.